Foreign tourists

Updated April 24, 2019

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EARLIER this month, the Pakistan Tourism Summit kicked off with a host of well-known foreign vloggers in attendance.

While the vloggers spoke of Pakistan’s tourism potential and praised the unique sights and sounds of the country in front of Prime Minister Imran Khan and other government and tourism officials, one voice was notably absent — or ‘silenced’, as she put it.

Alex Reynolds later released a video saying she felt she was sidelined from the main event as her presentation called for more caution amongst all the feel-good narratives that oversimplified and overlooked realities on the ground, thus presenting the country through solely rose-tinted glasses.

In her earlier talk, given to a nearly empty conference hall that did not include VIP guests, Ms Reynolds highlighted challenges that tourists may face in Pakistan — and what could potentially be done to overcome some of them.

Having travelled to Pakistan several times and facilitating travellers to explore the country, particularly women tourists, Ms Reynolds, too, is coming from a place of goodwill towards the country. To dismiss some of the concerns she raised — and that have been pointed out by local commentators as well — would be foolish.

At a recent tourism promotion conference in the capital, some entrepreneurs associated with the tourism sector echoed her concerns. The latter included infrastructure, accommodation, the difficulty in acquiring visas, and harassment of foreigners by officials.

While no one doubts Pakistan’s natural, cultural and historical value or the vast potential it possesses, to deliberately ignore or brush aside concerns about whether or not it is ready for an influx of foreign tourists can only result in disappointment and possibly endanger lives, besides potentially having a negative impact on our global image.

In the words of an author who long propagated the merits of ‘positive thinking’: “The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.”

Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2019